This cute little tennis dress is from the 1970s, and is a good example of the direction tennis clothes were headed at that time. For many years, white and only white was the color of tennis. The tradition of tennis whites possibly goes back to Edwardian days, when people played in white cotton and linen because these fabrics were easy to launder. At any rate, the tennis whites stuck, but in the early 70s color began to creep into the tennis wardrobe.
Of course, the amount of color one could get away with depended on where one played the game. Many private clubs had strict dress rules, but the popularity of tennis in the early 70s lead to more public courts being built, where pretty much anything went. In my own little town, the two public courts that went virtually unused for years were all of a sudden inadequate, and the town quickly began a building campaign to help ease the long wait times.
So why did tennis suddenly gain popularity in the early 70s? A lot of it had to do with Chris Evert, who at 16, made a big splash at the US Open in 1971. She became a media darling, and the game of tennis was the big winner.
This April, 1972 Harper’s Bazaar cover shows the young Evert with her famous two-handed backhand and her ruffled panties. She didn’t invent the ruffled tennis panties, that was glamourous Gussie Moran in 1949, but she did re-popularize them.
For years I’ve looked for a good pair to add to my collection, but I just couldn’t seem to find any on which the panty people didn’t run the price up. I was lucky enough to spot two pairs of unworn “Poc-a-ball tennis panties” recently, a pair in both red and blue. There’s even a bit of ruffle!
And as a bit of icing on this tennis cake, I also found a tennis themed bandana. These were great for tying all that long hair back. On this players feet you’ll find a pair of Tretorn tennis shoes. All I need are a couple of terry wrist bands and this outfit will be complete.
And a few final words… This Virginia Slims ad from 1972 shows the trend toward color quite nicely. There is no all-over color, just touches of it here and there. And look closely, and you’ll see a super influence from the 1920s. Her tee shirt has a John Held illustration printed on it.